Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to WRITE!
In 2009, our district began a huge overhaul of the curriculum because Connecticut was bringing forth new state standards, now called Common Core. The language arts overhaul caused chaos in the classroom. It felt like all the good teaching and learning that was being done was being thrown out the door. In a district like ours, that would be unheard of, because academics are very important in the community. One of the pieces that felt like it had been dismantled were the research projects at each grade level. These learning projects were enjoyed by students and teachers.
After the curriculum was drafted to support the state standards and adopted by our district, intense professional development in reading and writing workshop ensued for the next two years. Then our amazing librarian approached me and we were tasked with writing a new research project that would dovetail with the curriculum. I was lucky enough to pilot this research and technology opportunity. The first time through, it felt like we creating as we went along. It took about a month to complete the project all the way through. There were amazing components along the way, rubrics, reflection, choice in topic and presentation.
The following year we rolled out the work to all nine teachers on the grade level so that every fourth grader would have a research experience. It took six weeks for all students to complete a research project the first year and the Librarian and the technology teacher did most of the teaching. Fast Forward three years and more curriculum tweaks and now the teachers are doing most of the teaching, the librarian and the technology teacher are supporting student learning. Now the project is done to completion in about three weeks.
How did that happen you ask? Well, we stopped looking at the research project as a stand alone and as a follow up to all of the non-fiction teaching we do. The research process is now seen as way to assess the non-fiction unit. It was a long thoughtful process with many tweaks along the way. Now the conversation concerns increasing the difficulty of the content, because now our students are becoming deeper thinkers.